Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass – Hiking Alberta

 

Crowsnest Pass is a special area ideal for hiking through Canadian history in Alberta, Canada.

 

 

Following breakfast in Blairmore, the drive west on Hwy 3 leads to parking at the closed-for-the-winter Alberta-British Columbia border Visitor Center near the east end of Crowsnest Lake.  The walk across the highway passes through the hamlet of Sentinel (originally Sentry Siding in 1909). 

The scenery here is overwhelmingly beautiful and a multitude of birds are singing near the shallow, reflective shores of Crowsnest Lake.  This lake is purportedly one of the deepest in the province.  Today's objective will be to hike around it.

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant, – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Crowsnest Lake - Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Crowsnest Lake – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Crowsnest Lake – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Crowsnest Lake – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Driving west leads to the large parking area at the British Columbia end of Crowsnest Lake before hiking west along the highway until vacant land allows a potential route around the end of the lake. 

After considerable effort through deep snow in difficult terrain, there is discovery of a creek crossing too wide to jump over.  Bushwhacking back and forth along the creek in search of an opportunity to attempt a dry crossing yields no easy solution.  Ultimately rigging a log is attempted where the jump becomes remotely viable.  This does not go perfectly. 

Hiking with one wet foot to the lake shoreline is followed by a short, steep scramble up and over the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline tracks which will be the trail along the north shore of Crowsnest Lake.

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Crowsnest Lake – Crowsnest Pass, British Columbia

 

The hike is 7.3 KM (4⅝ miles) long at an elevation around 1,372 m (4,501 ft).  The walk is a lovely, flat hike in gorgeous scenery.  On the walk east along the railway tracks on the north side of the lake, clouds are beginning to drift up mountain-sides and sun is struggling successfully to evaporate the mist.

About half way along the lake there is a drop down from the rail bed to a creek that flows from a cave opening in the rock face.  This is the water source for Crowsnest Lake.  It is a short hike to the mouth of the cave.  Normally, the approach would be followed by a scramble up into the cave, where recent graffiti competes with historic Indian rock paintings, but high water flow and surrounding ice make it unsafe today.  There is no-one around to assist in the event there is an injury.  Scrambling the right-facing rock face provides an opportunity for better photos of the mouth of the cave. On the way out, it becomes obvious I am being watched.

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Cave at Crowsnest Lake – Crowsnest Pass, British Columbia

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Cave at Crowsnest Lake – Crowsnest Pass, British Columbia

 

From the rail line above, an adorable baby mountain sheep, with neck extended, is watching inquisitively.  Slow and silent movement will hopefully create the opportunity for a photo but Mom and Dad enter the scene.  On the ascent up onto the rail-line my furry friends have retreated a safe-distance up a steep scree slope to wait for me to leave.

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Mountain sheep at Crowsnest Lake – Crowsnest Pass, British Columbia

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Crowsnest Lake – Crowsnest Pass, British Columbia

 

Approaching the east end of the lake there is a massive, brick building which is the long-abandoned East Kootenay Power Station.  The inner child desperately wants to explore the ruins but remaining on plan dictates continuing around the east end of Crowsnest Lake along the south shoreline via Hwy 3, through Sentinel, and back to the car.  

The sun finally owns clear sky.  A few kilometers away, 2,730 m (8,957 ft) Crownest Mountain emerges from cloud cover.  Adjacent to this mountain is an imposing and impressive chain of peaks called Seven Sisters.

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Crowsnest Lake – Crowsnest Pass, British Columbia

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Approaching the East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Crowsnest Lake – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

After lunch in Blairmore the hiking objective is the Star Creek Falls trail.  The access road is very muddy and rough.  The warmth of the sun has caused a lot of running water and mud is deep so walking in is the sensible thing to do.  The trail is obliterated with snow but it is straightforward to follow the creek.  Snow mounds and melting ice create fascinating sculptures.  Trail ends at the very beautiful lower rapids.  A scramble up the steep, 100 meter slope of moss, buried under six inches of snow, is too slippery to climb, so it is necessary to use shrubbery and dead fall to assist the ascent. 

At the top of the ridge a left turn leads to a small, snow-covered and precarious promontory.  The view of the frozen falls below is disappointing but facing the other way there are fabulous mountain vistas across Crowsnest Lake.

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Crowsnest Mountain across Crowsnest Lake – Crowsnest Pass, British Columbia, Canada

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Star Creek – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Crowsnest Mountain from Star Creek– Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Star Creek – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

This short hike to Star Creek Falls finishes earlier than expected.  The abandoned remains of the East Kootenay Power Company are a five minute drive away.

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

At the entrance road to the abandoned plant, there is a spot to park near the large barricade.  The tour is a short, flat walk and there is no-one around so the opportunity exists to do a thorough tour of the entire facility including out-buildings.  The experience is like hiking through history. 

In 1924 the plant changed from a temporary to continuous power source.  Two hundred tons of pulverized coal were used daily as fuel and the plant required 10,000 gallons of water taken daily from the lake to drive steam turbines.  The hill leads to long-abandoned houses, sheds and cabins.  Surrounding views are awesome.

 

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Working the way around to the lake side of the facility finds most entrances sealed and locked securely but there is one old, unsecured door that is ajar just enough for passage.  The inside is gutted but interesting in its layout.  The boilers and generators in place are gone but their foundations fire the imagination of times past many years prior.

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Inside the East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Inside the East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

 

Time is taken to enjoy the warm sun and gentle breeze as well as the scenery and history of another era.  This plant at Sentinel was administered in later years by Calgary Power and eventually closed in 1969.  The property is now privately owned. 

As always, departure leaves nothing but footprints.  All that is taken are good memories, good conscience and photographs.  Tragically, there has been quite a bit of vandalism at the historical site.

On the next day, due to continuing inclement weather, there is frustration original goals cannot be achieved.  A leisure day will be designated for the drive west to Sparwood in British Columbia and then south to Fernie where sightseeing tour continues north through Jaffray, Wardner and historic Fort Steele

The route through breathtaking, snow-capped mountain ranges is a visual extravaganza.   The tour continues north through Wasa, Skoocumchuck, Canal Flats, Fairmont Hot Springs and Windermere to Radium Hot Springs buried in narrow and impressive Sinclair Canyon at Redwall Fault.

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Radium Hot Springs - Kootenay National Park, British Columbia

 

The Radium Hot Springs 39 degree C water is welcoming.  The Radium complex is much larger than Banff Hot Springs in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada There is a hot tub at the end of the lower pool with direct feed from underground springs.  Here the water is hot at 42 C.  The upper lap pool is cooler at 30 C and very comfortable for swimming.  Sun saturates the pool and surrounding canyon walls.

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Radium Hot Springs - Kootenay National Park, British Columbia

 

Following a great soak and swim, it is a relatively short drive to Banff Hot Springs for the second soak and steaming of the day.  Banff Hot Springs is predictably busy.  Temperature is 24 C on the pool deck and it is heavenly to alternately sunbathe and dip in the hot springs at 39 C. 

After the second good soak, the obligatory stop in the Town of Banff purchases a slice of Chocolate Grand Marnier fudge for the drive home to Calgary.  Decadence!

 

Crowsnest Lake, Star Creek, East Kootenay Power Plant – Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada Banff Hot Springs - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Thank you for your comment and kind words, Sandra. I am certain your visit to the Crowsnest Pass will be fascinating and educational. Local geology groups and the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre may be able to assist your endeavour.

I have been off the radar since I retired. I am coming over to the Pass in September. My father and grandparents lived in Coleman so your hikes will help me do mine. I also want to do some geology there. No one else creates the scene as well as you and your photos would make Gushel proud.

Thanks for your comment, Scott. I hope you are able to return to the cave. I would like to see your photos.

My father worked for Calgary Power in the 60s and 70s - One year, on family holidays, we walked from the power plant to the cave and shot a super-8 movie there, with waves of hot wind blasting us at the cave. Drinking the cold water was good and Dad made me a bow and arrow from a willow. None of the 6 of us have ever been back to the cave in 40 years. We are all still alive, Dad is 80. I think I should go back and photograph it. I was passing through the area last year. I turned in to see about access and was put off by the fences and gates. An atv can drop in from the valley behind and it gets you closer to the cave. All our memories are fond of that trip. Cheers.

Thank you for sharing your photographs of the Power Plant. And for your comment, Chris. Much appreciated. I am also a huge fan of the Crowsnest Pass and a supporter of preserving the buildings and their history for subsequent generations to appreciate and enjoy.

Here is a newly posted picture of the power plant found in a 1937 copy of the Nelson BC Daily News. http://www.bigdoer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/DSCF3564.jpg

Hi Barry, Here's a picture you might be interested in - a view of the power plant from the radio tower high on the ridge above the lake. http://www.bigdoer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/DSCF1586.jpg It's whole new perspective on the place. I love the Crowsnest! Thanks!

Like you, I do not advocate trespassing but I know I am respectful of the property of others. There are occasions where there is no opportunity to ask for permission. My active inner child puts me on the explore. I keep my adult ethics high, knowing I will leave the property precisely as I found it. I may leave the occasional footprint and I will take away photographs of what I found. These will remind me of the excitement of exploring a historical treasure. I can only imagine the activity within and around the plant but it is fun to learn about stages of life which led to the infrastructures we enjoy today. I am pleased my photos were of benefit to you. Maybe, one day I will be shot. When there has been the opportunity to ask, I have never been refused. The problem is the people who will do senseless damage and ruin, or at the very least change, the experience for everyone who follows. I have no problem with those people being harshly disciplined. Thank you for your comment, Heather. It would be interesting to hear more about the history of the site.

Good day Barry.....how surprised and pleased I found your article on the Sentinel Power Plant.....I had an uncle that worked at the plant in the late 20's . As a result on a week long camping trip to the area this year, I made it a point to stop at the visitor centre and ask if they could help or had any information on the location of such a plant. Much to my surprise she pointed over to the north and said "Its right there". I quickly drove across the highway and lo and behold there was a large sign of Bridgegate, stating "NO TRESPASSING". after looking for another route around and talking to a fellow walking his dogs (who stated" Go for it, what are they doing to do to you" I drove through the half open gate thinking I for sure was going to be shot!!. the day turned out great and I managed to get half a dozen good shots. Not as extensive as yours as I never lost my sense of panic about being there....So now you know why and how pleased I am to find not only more photos of yours but of the inside also....(I did not have enough courage to try that). I now have more incentive to research more for the family genealogy ......Thank you for that extra step you provided.....and happy hiking.

Thank you for sharing that interesting bit of history. It is a good reason to climb the mountain. I'm guessing the old wreck in Crowsnest Lake would also be an attractive dive location.

Phoned an old timer and he said if you go to the top of the mountain and look down you can see the outline of 5 or 6 box cars including the caboose. They are approximately 300 yards east of the cave, beside the tracks in about 50 feet of water. He has the lights of the caboose. It happened in the 1920's. He does not know what exactly is in the box cars but says - no booze. What he said, of more interest, is there are a few old cars and trucks in Emerald Lake, beside the old road, from the days of rum running. This old friend called it Stewart Lake and I asked where it was, then realized it was Emerald Lake. Many places around here are known by different names. Sourced from Outdoorsmen Forum.

I have never been resident in the Crownest Pass but it is one of my favourite hiking areas. I am not familiar with the story about the train wreck. Having hiked the rail line along the north shore of Crowsnest Lake, it is easy to understand how a train could derail into the lake or be pushed into Crowsnest Lake by a winter avalanche. I find it hard to believe the remains of the train could not be discovered but if there is a train in the lake along the north shore it may not be retrievable. There is a Visitor Centre on the highway at the east end of Crowsnest Lake and they may be an excellent source of information. If the story is true, it sounds to me like an excellent dive opportunity.

You have obviously lived there so I was hoping you could help me out. I live in Lethbridge and at school there is a story going around that in the 1920's a train wrecked and fell into Crowsnest Lake along those tracks and has never been found. Could you clarify this for me?

Thank you for your comments and recollections of past times at Crowsnest Lake in the Crowsnest Pass. It is an incredibly beautiful area and I try to visit at least once a year. There are still many trails for me to explore and further discover the rich history of the area. I did this circuit of Crowsnest Lake clockwise from the west end so I was hiking east along the railway tracks. Several photos were taken looking back so it appears I was hiking east. I thoroughly enjoyed your writing and appreciate your time taken to enrich the experience. I am certain others will benefit from your memories of simpler times. Thank you again, Mr. Bowman, for your excellent comment. I always enjoy visiting the area. I passed by the Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp before offtrailing to the railroad line at the west end of the lake. I did not want to walk through people's yards. I believe I did not get quite far enough west to get a close look at Summit Lime Works. I am sure that is quite interesting.

The two photos of the C.P.R. tracks look like you were walking west. Did you go past the end of the lake, past the Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp, to the Summit Lime Works? We lived for four years in the main manager's house there. Unfortunately, the area has totally changed since then. Before the road was 'improved' we could go out at any time and see bighorn sheep on both sides of the highway. I noticed that you photographed a few youngsters, but back then we had dozens in view any time we wanted. We also had a herd of Elk that wintered there so we had to work our way through them to get from the highway to our house. One summer, the rangers trapped four black bears within 400 yards of our house. Even an occasional grizzly would wander through. Along the tracks you photographed, a mountain lion was killed by a passing train when he got caught with no place to escape the speeding train. One day my four-year-old daughter went to the back door to go play in our fenced in yard and came back telling my wife there was a moose right by the back door. Sure enough, there was a full-grown bull moose just yards from the door. [I photographed a cow moose and two calves nearby as well.] There was only one other family in the compound with children, all seven of them pre-schoolers. One day they were out playing when the other mother noticed a black bear walking down the road. She went to the back door to gather the children inside. But, when she opened the door, they all fell in like dominoes! Her oldest daughter and mine had gathered up the younger ones and got them to the back door, but they were too little to get the door opened in the 'crush!' One summer a couple of students came up to work for the summer. One morning they woke up to strange sounds outside their window. They pulled back the curtains to see a black bear, paws on the window sill, looking right back at them! At the neighbor's motel the owner's wife was very nice, but rather large. One day she came out of one of the rooms from cleaning it, holding a broom, to find a black bear right out the door. She sent him scampering wildly away with a wallop on his rear end with the broom! Such was like there some 35-40 years ago. While I lived there we had two train wrecks between the two lakes. On one, the trainman came down and told me to turn off any flames as a tank car was leaking. I told him we had two kilns fired up at about 2,000 degrees and it would take a couple of weeks to safely shut them down; cutting off the gas immediately would cost $100,000 each to re-brick them and get them going again. "Yikes," he said and ran back to the work crews to make them get the gas from the car shut off at its source! Our family did get one benefit from the train wrecks - we gathered up enough wheat to last for months and we bought a little flour grinder and made our own flour! If you enjoyed visiting that area, this is what it was like living there!

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